Bread throughout the ages
Bread has a vast history, as its presence ages to the beginning of mankind’s time on earth. The manufacturing of bread started in ancient Egypt. The very first flour had absolutely no resemblance to today’s flour. It was made of roasted or drained seeds that were rubbed or ground between two smooth stones.
Later, people learned to mix this primitive flour with water and produce the first chyles, the real ancestors of current bread. Afterwards, they learned to make more dense chyles, which they cooked straight onto the fire or laid into lit or fired stones. The first vessels used were clay pans.
Irodotos stated that in ancient Egypt the bread was kneaded with the feet, which continued until the beginning of the previous century.
The first organized bakeries appeared in Rome during the ruling of Emperor Trajan from 97 to 117 AD.
Cyprus was one of the grananes of the Greek World. According to Pliny, the wheat of Cyprus gave famous tawny bread.
From ancient times, the inhabitants of our island had established bread, as one of the most basic element of their daily diet, while the good quality of Cypriot wheat was a given.
The bread had a prominent presence on major religious holydays and major events like marriage, birth, baptism etc.
The most important ingredient for making bread was and still is the leaven, a small piece of dough, which had been fermented for days. Yeast was considered sacred and blessed from God and therefore was prepared with reverence. Dozens of bias existed around this precious piece of dough.
Every housewife should keep the yeast clean, literally and figuratively, since it was not appropriate to have sexual contact with her husband the last three days before Friday of the Yeast. To avoid any deplorable incidents in many villages the yeast was kneaded by young girls or older women. Also certain days of the year, the kneading of the yeast was considered inappropriate, while certain people believed, that the yeast should not be given to anyone during the night, or before forty days has passed, because that would bring big problems to the family.
The Greek seamen and merchants brought the Egyptian flour in Greece, where the baking of bread began. Most popular was the white bread and a very intense competition for the best bread existed between the cities. Athens was very proud of Theario, her best baker, the name of whom was in the writings of many authors.
Bakeries appeared in the 2nd century AD. Among the many qualities of bread produced in ancient Greece, was zymitis made of flour, water and yeast, the unleavened bread made of flour and water, the simigdalitis, made of delicate flour from good quality wheat, etc. Ancient texts show that the Greeks offered bread to the gods, which they called ‘theiagonous bread’. In the temple of Demetra in Eleusis, during the celebration of ‘Thesmofora’, the people offered the goddess a large bread, thus this celebration was named ‘megalartia’.
In the German Bread Museum, in Ulm, the finest exhibits are four Greek statuettes of the 5th century B.C., from Boeotia, with female figures. The figurines depict the mining of wheat, in a mortar shaping of the dough, the baking of bread and loaves of bread ready for sale and consumption.
In the New Testament the miracle of Jesus is described, who with five loaves and two fishes satiated five thousand people. Jesus also likened himself to his students as bread which would give eternal life to those who ate it. At Last Supper, Jesus blessed the bread, cutting it in pieces and said: “Take and eat; this is my body”. Afterwards he blessed the wine and gave his glass to his students and said: “Drink from it all, this is my blood”. They prayer given by Christ himself mentions the holy bread.
In the Church, liturgy can not be committed, without bread. The bread should be well kneaded and have the seal of the cross and the sign JESUS CHRIST WINS. A portion of the bread is used by the priest for the preparation of the Holy Communion (in commemoration of the Last Supper), and the remainder is cut into small pieces, ‘antidora’ (holy bread) and distributed to the faithful at the end of the Divine Liturgy.
The devotion of people towards the bread, which should never be disposed of shows its importance, both in daily as well as in religious life.
The presence of bread in our daily diet is considered more than necessary. The bread is a rich source of the complex carbohydrates, and the fibers it contains are valuable for the proper functioning of the body. It is rich in vitamin B and iron and particularly low in sugar and fat. The bread is made from flour, water and yeast. In recent years, we can find a wide range depending on the type of flour used. Common white or luxury bread made with a 70% type flour without bran. Rye bread is made from a mixture of wheat and rye flour. The whole-wheat bread is made from grinding whole wheat flour (with peat). The multigrain bread made from whole grains, like wheat, barley, rye, oats, corn and some times mixed with other seeds or nuts (sesame seeds, oat flakes, walnuts).
The nutritional value of bread depends from the flour that has been used to manufacture, because the grinning process destroys much of the nutrients. These proteins are mainly wheat gluten, prolamin and leucosin. Gluten’s desirable attributes to the dough are solidity, elasticity, resistance and color. The fruit of the grain is rich in minerals and vitamins, especially B complex. Therefore, white bread is less nutritious than brown and whole grain bread, because it contains little fibers, fewer vitamins and minerals. Whole-wheat bread is richer in iron, zinc and calcium. It also contains about twice the amount of magnesium from white bread, a metal that latest research shown to have antidepressant activity. The fibers of brown bread contribute to good bowel function, protect against cardiovascular diseases, contributing in the elimination of cholesterol and lower bad (LDL) cholesterol, and maintain stable levels of blood sugar.